You have the time to write. You just don’t recognise it for what it is.
Perhaps in your mind, you expect it to look a certain way: quiet, comfortable, in a soft chair looking out to the sea with birds chirping outside… when in reality it’s probably more like typing with two thumbs while walking up an escalator and making sure you haven’t lost the child who was standing behind you a moment ago.
Or dashing off a few paragraphs after a client meeting ends and before the next one starts. Or staring at a blank screen first thing in the morning instead of reading emails.
Those are where the best writing at least begins: and you can start and end it anywhere, anytime. It’s all in your head.
You tell yourself, I’m struggling to find the time to write.
I’ve blocked out three hours – or a half a day – or a full day! – and I’m going to write, write write.
You even have the ideas list. You’ve read They Ask You Answer, you’ve got questions from your clients and problems they’re experiencing and topics from the Big Five categories.
But you don’t.
You buy into the deception that writing must happen under some sort of perfect conditions – when in fact the direct opposite is often true. Some of the best writing you’ll ever do will at least begin in the strangest of places. Because that’s when the ideas come.
I can distinctly remember specific ideas that came to me in the evening on a walk in the woods, or first thing in the morning walking along a beach. Talking to a client in a busy exhibition hall and suddenly thinking, “That would be a brilliant blog post”, or standing chatting to someone after I’ve given a presentation and they say something that sparks an entire thought process.
The truth is: You can write anywhere.
You don’t have to wait.
Matter of fact, the less you wait, the better. I was in London for an event at which I was one of the speakers, and I was finalising my presentation for the next day. I had the bare bones, but was a little stuck, and felt like it could be a lot better. I wanted to practice it aloud, but I had just gotten off the plane and was getting on the underground, so instead of speaking it aloud I decided to start writing it out. But I was stuck, so I couldn’t think of a single thing to write.
So i started writing. Anything and everything.
I wrote out a sentence on the topic, which led to another sentence, and it all sounded really stupid.
Suddenly after about the tenth different starting point a little bell went off in my mind. That was it! A much better focus for my talk. Unfortunately I can’t tell you the brilliance of the exact words that kicked it off, because I wrote it swiftly and hurriedly on my phone, and now all I have is a note that says, “marks chalet known nor loyal bam”. (Fortunately the actual words that came to mind were much more helpful, and I put them straight into my presentation, which seemed to go quite well as there weren’t too many confused faces.)
When you start typing, or writing, or speaking with transcription – it feels stupid and even is stupid at first.
But start, and it will come.
Start with anything. Start with your phone, your ipad, your laptop, a pen and paper.
Start anywhere. On the train. In the train station waiting for your platform to be announced. On a bus. Walking along the street. In a client meeting (as long as you don’t interrupt the flow of conversation).
You don’t have to write the entire blog post, the website page, the PDF guide. That you can finish later – or have your marketing team or agency do it for you. Edit, tidy it up, choose images, design it, draft and schedule it.
I know if I don’t write it down instantly, it’s very likely I’ll forget the exact words that were so helpful or inspiring. Many of you have seen me do it. We’ll be talking away and suddenly I’ll stop and pull out my phone and say, “I’m still listening, I just have to – what was that you said?” and we both try to remember exactly what the phrase was so I can note it down and write about it later.
Because if you don’t take the time wherever you are, whenever you are, you’ll end up with notes like “marks chalet known nor loyal bam”, and it won’t help you at all.
This particular note was written in this way:
- Note taken on my iPhone on the London Underground – “When your mind is blank start writing . Got to London. Had to wait for bag and then had to run out and get a few things in the city. Only had time in the underground . Couldn’t practice my talk aloud so started typing out notes in my phone. This starting sentence that starting sentence. All sounded stupid. Suddenly after about the tenth different starting point a little bell went off marks chalet known nor loyal bam”
- Conversation with a client on the PF Marketing Community group – someone said they were struggling to find the time to write, and I replied “we all have the time to write. We just don’t recognise it for what it is. We expect it to look a certain way: ie quiet, comfortable, in a soft chair looking out to the sea with birds chirping outside… when in reality it’s probably more like typing with two thumbs while walking up an escalator and making sure you haven’t lost the child who was standing behind you a moment ago. Or dashing off a few paragraphs after a client meeting ends and before the next one starts. Or staring at a blank screen first thing in the morning instead of reading emails. Those are where the best writing at least begins: and in my experience you can start and end it , anywhere, anytime. It’s all in your head.”
- Sketchnote idea whilst out for a walk at home – thought “I could sketch a bunch of icons of places you can write, like a plane, a train, a bus, walking”
- Downloaded images and icons, in the Edinburgh airport – I knew in order to sketch all the images I was thinking of, I needed some ideas to start with, and I might need to do sketching when I had no internet access. So before I got on a plane to Ireland, I started downloading some icons. As I was doing that, I started thinking about (as I do) magical places and transport as opposed to normal muggle transport, and I thought, “it would be fun to sketch wizarding world transport, like the Hogwarts Express and Platform 9 3/4 and the Knight Bus”. So I downloaded a few images to give me ideas on that.
- Sketched the images on a bus from Belfast to Dublin – By now I had all the ideas in my mind – I just needed to do the drawing. Made sure my ipad had plenty of power, and pulled out my phone with the downloaded images, and that was done pretty quickly.
- Wrote the actual content sitting by a window looking out to sea in Tramore Ireland – I had a meeting with a client in this town, and my Airbnb has this huge picture window staring out to the sea, with the sun sparkling like diamonds on the water, and the birds chirping, and the bright flowers outside smiling at me. I’m sitting on a sofa with a cup of black coffee, and I realised I had a spare 20 minutes before I drive off to the airport, so I sat down, pulled it all together, and here we are.
That seems like a lot, for one short post and a sketchnote. But all these things happened in a few minutes. The actual sketching took about 20 minutes, and the writing of this content about the same. Everything else was a few minutes here and there, as i was going, as I was traveling, in between everything else.
That’s when you write. In pieces, in sections, in between everything else. Don’t wait for the perfect time, in sunshine on a comfy sofa looking out to the sparkling sea.
Although, as it happens, sometimes that’s exactly how it works out.
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